Friday, February 8, 2013

Carpe Diem #117, Sakura (Japan)

Dear Haijin, visitors and travelers,

Today our final piece of our little musical trip around the world. Today we are visiting Japan, the land of haiku. The folkloric music of Japan is called Sakura, that's the prompt for today, and I will take you to the world famous Japanese drums of Taiko.

Sakura - Cherry Blossom

"Sakura Sakura" (さくら さくら?, "Cherry blossoms, cherry blossoms"), also known as "Sakura", is a traditional Japanese folk song depicting spring, the season of cherry blossoms. Contrary to popular belief, the song did not originate in ancient times; it was a popular, urban melody of the Edo period and was adopted as a piece for beginning koto students in the Tokyo Academy of Music Collection of Japanese Koto Music issued in 1888 (in English) by the Department of Education.The song has been popular since the Meiji period, and the lyrics in their present form were attached then. It is often sung in international settings as a song representative of Japan. I will reproduce the song text here:

In Romaji:

sakura sakura
noyama mo sato mo
mi-watasu kagiri
kasumi ka kumo ka
asahi ni niou
sakura sakura
hana zakari

sakura sakura
yayoi no sora wa
mi-watasu kagiri
kasumi ka kumo ka
nioi zo izuru
izaya izaya
mini yukan

English translation:

Cherry blossoms, cherry blossoms,
In fields and villages
As far as you can see.
Is it a mist, or clouds?
Fragrant in the morning sun.
Cherry blossoms, cherry blossoms,
Flowers in full bloom.

Cherry blossoms, cherry blossoms,
Across the spring sky,
As far as you can see.
Is it a mist, or clouds?
Fragrant in the air.
Come now, come now,
Let's look, at last!

And this is the music of Sakura, Sakura:

The Music of Sakura, Sakura

It's a song in praise of the Cherry Blossoms. The Cherry Blossom is a kigo (seasonword) for Spring and I will offer that prompt in our next month of Carpe Diem. March will have a prompt-list with classical Japanese kigo (as I did in December 2012 for Winter).

And so it sounds:

Another wonderful piece of Japanese music is the so called Taiko (Japanese Drums).
Taiko (太鼓?) means "drum" in Japanese (etymologically "great" or "wide drum"). Outside Japan, the word is often used to refer to any of the various Japanese drums, (和太鼓, "wa-daiko", "Japanese drum", in Japanese) and to the relatively recent art-form of ensemble taiko drumming (sometimes called more specifically, "kumi-daiko" (組太鼓)). The performances can last between 5 and 25 minutes and typically follow a jo-ha-kyū (beginning, middle, end/rapid, sudden, urgent, and emergency) structure, which means the performance will speed up significantly towards the grand finale.
Japanese taiko drums have been developed into a wide range of percussion instruments that are used in both Japanese folk and classical musical traditions.
Taiko, in general, are 3 sticks percussion instruments. With the exception of the "ko-tsuzumi" and "ō-tsuzumi", all taiko are struck with bachi. They have heads on both sides of the drum body, and a sealed resonating cavity. Taiko are also characterized by a high amount of tension on the drums heads, with a correspondingly high pitch relative to body size. This high tension likely developed in response to Japan's wet and humid summers when most festivals take place. Many taiko are not tunable, and a drum with high head tension would counteract the slacking effects of humidity.

A Taiko Drum

These Taiko drums are great and the perfomance with Taiko is almost better than the most Western music. An example of a Taiko performance:

In my country, The Netherlands, we have a Drum group called 'Slagerij Van Kampen', they perform on regular base all over the world and this is how that sounds:

Well ... isn't it wonderful to end our little musical trip around the world in Japan? (And a little bit of The Netherlands? :-) 

Is it possible to write haiku on this prompt? I don't know ... I hope so. I will give it a try and I hope you will too.

in praise of Cherries
a geisha is playing the Koto
singing Sakura

singing Sakura
wandering beneath the Cherry Trees
Ah! what a joy

drumming sounds
dancing through the streets
Taiko band playing

Taiko band playing
thoughts of Slagerij Van Kampen
East joins West

Really ... I have done it ... I have written a few haiku on our prompt for today ... what a relief. I hope you enjoyed reading this episode and I hope (for sure) that you did like the music I have shared here. Be inspired and creative ... follow the heartbeat of the Taiko drums to write and share your haiku on todays prompt.

This prompt will stay on 'till February 10th 11.59 AM (CET) and I will post our new Carpe Diem Special written by Chiyo-Ni later on today around 10.00 PM (CET). Hereafter I will already share Chiyo-Ni's haiku for this Special.

harusame ya utsukushiu naru mono bakari

spring rain
everything just grows
more beautiful


  1. I like your haiku today, and the essay about the drums--I was unclear on the music. We often see Taiko in Seattle, too, and the cherry blossoms are gorgeous in the spring.

  2. I love your first haiku. Really captures the prompt I think.

  3. Another wonderful post ~ love it all ~ the music is a real delight! ~ Lovely composed haiku ~

    Carol of (A Creative Harbor)

  4. Beautiful haiku you wrote... and good thing to end in Japan. ;-)

  5. A beautiful tribute to the cherry blossoms. Great work!

  6. that's odd--I put my link in earlier (when I made the comment) but somehow it didn't take. Don't be fooled by the title of the link--it's today's, I got the date wrong when I originally posted.

  7. A superb set of haiku Kristjaan. It's been a treat flying around the world these last three days. Thank you :)

  8. Kristjaan
    I wish I could have done a better write this time...
    the drums are one of my favorite instruments in Japan
    and other cultures.
    First I have injections (Synvisc) for arthritis in my knees and
    I have a severe pain for up to a week after...will do my best to
    keep up and write some great haiku.

    I hope your mother is doing well, still.
    I send my regards to her and to you and your family.


    1. Good day Sigrid, I hope you will recover fast from the injections for arthritis and I hope that you can continuing posting.
      Thank you for asking about my mother. She's doing well, but she's still recovering from the 'dotter-procedure'.